Written by Eric Sperrazza
As a child, I grew up listening to some great rock bands and subsequent albums, rich with elongated guitar solos, power ballads and experimental synthesized instrumentals. But, as my teen years were in full force, in the late nineties, I spent more time hanging out in the East Village of Manhattan and discovering punk than rehashing British Steel for the umpteenth time.
Punk music was so counterculture to what I was accustomed to listening to. And, during this era, there was seemingly limitless content out there, chock full of scraping chords on the downstroke, fast and furious tempos and ALL speaking to an angst and rebellion that, before, had very little voice in me.
By 1999, I had been introduced to The Bouncing Souls at my first Vans Warped Tour and, by the time their chart-breaking album, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, arrived on the scene, I was a certified fan.
Recently, The Bouncing Souls released a new album, with reimagined versions of some of their biggest and most creative songs. Could this band, that spoke to my younger self, so vividly, still be able to give my feelings a voice? With that, I sat down, laced up my Doc Martens, dropped the proverbial needle on the aptly named Volume II LP, and began my journey to rediscovering them, once more.
The album kicked off with “Argyle” and a feeling like I traveled back to a familiar road. The fast-paced muddied power chords and drilling baseline of the original version were surprisingly replaced with a more sophisticated and organic feel, like you were dragged into the deep end of a Pogues album. (Which is not a bad thing!) Moreover, it set the pace for the rest of this album’s experience.
The reimagined version of “Gone” is reminiscent of the days of MTVs Unplugged concerts when an artist was stripped of their pomp and circumstance and, ultimately, forced to rely only on their talent, heart and the art of storytelling through song. “Gone” was always one of my favorite Bouncing Souls‘ songs and to hear how this stripped down version still holds water, while still moving me the way it did the first time I heard it, was a spectacular treat. I’ve grown a lot since this song first debuted in 2001… and so has this band.
“Simple Man,” I found especially brilliant as, peppered into the instrumentals, are the ghosts of The Cure giving a feeling of comfort and familiarity to an already well-written and performed track.
I’m always a sucker for a good love song. “Favorite Everything” was, for me, the anthem for finding that perfect partner-in-crime for life’s little delinquent moments. As I listened to the Volume II version, I can still relate to it, but, rather, more as a celebration of keeping that perfect partner through all of life’s moments.
The big new entry into the Bouncing Souls library, “World on Fire” is apropos for the state of our world. The lyric, “find a reason to save our souls,” is more of a call to action for all of us to fight the good fight, amidst the world on fire; and to do the best we can.
The close of Volume II, “Ghosts on the Boardwalk,” is the kind of ending and new beginning that only a band from New Jersey could create. (And I should know. We Jersey folks can smell our own.) The tune had me walking down the beach at sunset, reflecting on the emotions I was able to revisit, during this album, with grown up lenses on. Leaving teen angst behind, and relishing in the memories of simpler times, this song offers closure and a promise of a sunnier day, ahead.
All in all, this album was a sincere pleasure to listen to. And listen, I did… three times in a row. The record feels like a traveler’s tale being played in a warm and dimly lit pub; like a love letter to everything that defined your youth, as well as your romance with punk music. But, most importantly, it is a tip of the hat to everything you ever loved about The Bouncing Souls… and that’s the beauty of it!
This record is what happens when punk grows up. You can still ask the questions, pine for lost love and throw a militant fist up into the sky. Volume II simply gives you the permission to do so, not just through sheer power and lightning-fast emotional vocals, spewing from a garage in New Brunswick… but through art.
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